As I walk Dad to the courtyard he grasps at all the paper within reach; the nursing home newsletter, coupon inserts, the newspaper. Before moving into the facility he would collect things as we led him from room to room.
Mom once found an ice-cream sandwich in his sock drawer.
I thought Dad’s collecting habit showed a reluctance to leave, an attempt to hold on. While odd, it was no where near the most concerning of my Dad’s behaviors. Today, as I reviewed a battery of patient and caregiver questionnaires, I faced an entire section called “hoarding and cluttering.”
I am horrified. I did not see “hoarding and cluttering” in the Alzheimer’s manual and I am not up for it.
R and I have never qualified for the local and national best housekeeping contests. We have always been in the category of “putting up a good front.” Our general living spaces have always looked pretty good — well painted, tidy, even clean. The laundry room, attic, basement — not for public viewing. A friend’s child once asked if he could go to our laundry room because he had heard there was money just sitting around down there. I declined his generous offer to help, not to deny him the coins, but to protect us from jointly experiencing the basement.
I do not welcome the idea that “hoarding and cluttering” is something that will, potentially, get worse with the disease progression. When I was making peace with the bananas and multiple Dylan albums I had no idea that we could in a “pre-hoarding” stage. Usually I quietly criticize those who say they are going to “fight and defeat” Alzheimer’s disease. Usually I look at life and say let’s make it the best we can — exercise, eat well, practice art, get outside, support research and medical trials — things that add to life’s quality and promote mental health. Usually I don’t believe in making our life a battle. Usually, but I’m drawing the line at hoarding. While Amyloid and Tau tangles may sneak past the guards at the gate, I am going to beat back that clutter with a broomstick. I am going to fight and I am going to win.
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